Anxiety by night: the sleep-stealing b**tard

My fiancé can fall asleep anywhere. I mean anywhere – on a bus, the tube, waiting for me in a dressing room – but also within seconds in his own bed. My ability to sleep, conversely, is a different story. I’ve always struggled with falling asleep and am an incredibly light sleeper – but in more recent years falling asleep has become a real problem.

I believe this stems from my anxiety disorder. Sometimes I’ll just be struck with this intense dread that I can’t shake. It feels as though I’m just about to take the biggest exam of my life. It rises deep from within and can sometimes feel like a physical pain. Alas, the bloody exam doesn’t even exist.

I can lie awake for hours even though I’m so tired and then struggle to focus on the next day with no sleep. How about an afternoon nap, you might say? Forget it. I could never.

HOWEVER, there are many reasons why insomnia can occur and ways you can ease it.

Not alone, hun

Episodes of insomnia are suuuuper common. In fact, it’s estimated that a third of us will struggle with it at some time in our lives.

Although I do struggle with falling asleep, I’ve developed my own ‘sleep hygiene’ system which sometimes works for me. This includes things like avoiding alcohol, not drinking any caffeine after 12pm, not eating a big meal past 8pm and doing my best to stay off my phone when I’m in bed. You can read more about sleep hygiene here. After a good night’s sleep, I feel much more productive and clear-headed.

Sometimes though, it’s worth looking into a little extra help.

  • I have heard that Lush Sleepy Body Lotion can give you that extra boost. It’s filled with lavender oil which has long been thought to aid sleep and using it tells your body that it’s time to start relaxing for bed – has anyone had a good experience with this?
  • Using a White Noise machine works for some babies, why not adults? Especially living in London with all those sirens. I usually use Spotify and play some rainforest sounds, but there are also dedicated sleep aids on the market I’d be intrigued to use.
  • There are also the oft-discussed benefits of getting jiggy with your partner or yourself to aid sleep! I’m no scientist, but a round with the LELO Sona Cruise will have you absolutely zonked out!

To Bedfordshire, we ride

Listening to your body truly is key. If you’re struggling, it may be time to make some adjustments to your sleep routine. Easy changes, like turning off your phone and computer an hour before bed, meditating, going to bed at the same time each night and making sure your room is dark can all improve your odds of catching a good night’s sleep. If you’re still struggling though, it may be time to speak to your GP.

What is it about Morrisons?

At the risk of sounding like the most boring person alive, I love doing our weekly food shop. We always plan our meals and heading to Morrisons for our weekly meander around the aisles is one of my favourite things to do with Will.

He’s the trolley-pusher, I’m the list holder and item picker. If they had an Olympics for fastest couple to scan and bag, we’d win. However, I love it not simply because of the cracking deals, but because we’ve had some of our best conversations in Morrisons.

Good and bad, those aisles have seen a fair whack of emotions throughout our relationship. We had our first conversation about moving in together near the crisps. The pasta aisle saw me slam some pesto into the trolley and flounce off ahead because Will had to unexpectedly work that night [and I was just being a wee cow tbh]. Don’t worry, we had made up by the time we got to the bread. World foods saw me have a near-panic attack and shed a few tears over a horrible situation near the start of this year, and confectionary saw us have a debate about the amount of sugar our future children should have(!)

We also talk through our plans for the week, what we’ve got coming up, what’s on our minds and how we feel about things in general. 

There might be some science behind this though. According to WalkCoachLearn: “When we sit down we are often face-to-face. This can produce a sense of confrontation – me versus you. When we walk, we are side-by-side. We are moving together facing the problem and working together to find solutions – us versus the problem.”

Here’s why I think it works

It’s carved out time

We know, no matter how busy our weeks are, that we’ll have at least one, dedicated hour or so in which we are focused on each other and what we each have to say. When we’re running around like crazy all week, it’s something to look forward to.

It lessens the need for eye contact

It can be hard to look someone in the eye when you’re talking about something difficult. Being side-by-side can make you feel more at ease and less under pressure.

We’re working together

It’s food shopping, not rocket science. But it’s a task we’ve done hundreds of times and it’s like a well-oiled machine. We’re a team in smashing out a weekly shop AND understanding each other on a deeper level.

No interruptions

Have ye ever tried to push a trolley when on your phone? It doesn’t work very well. For this time, we are focused only on each other and there’s no TV, phones, or other people [bar the general public – JEEZ] to distract us.

Of course, Morrisons isn’t a holy, fluorescent pilgrimage site for pre-marital conversations. Anywhere you can walk and talk will work – the park is a good one. Additionally, you don’t need to be as far down the relationship path as we are. First dates can be awkward AF and the thought of sitting opposite someone might fill you with dread. Instead, walk through Borough Market or along Southbank to ease the pressure.

Seriously though, next time you need to have a difficult chat or just talk freely – take a walk [or get yerself down to Morrisons].

 

My Epic Skin Journey – #OneTwoFreeYourSkin

fruit flatlay watermelon pineapple lemon kiwi to treat eczema– this post contains gifted products –

I’ve always had problem, eczema-prone skin. My childhood included trips to the doctor, hydrocortisone, a lot of itching…and all my memories smell like Oilatum Bath Emollient. Very annoying when my little brother was subsequently born with the soft skin of an angel! Luckily though, my mum figured out what worked for me and we were able to keep a happy medium for a good few years, able to deal with any flare ups when they happened.

Teenage years

Fast-forward a few years though, and along came puberty. With that came heavy kohl eyeliner and Natural Collection mascara, taken off at the end of the day with the cheapest makeup remover I could buy. Adding that to the hormonal changes my skin was going through, I had a big issue. The skin underneath my eyes was raw with eczema – painful, itchy and not to mention, embarrassing. After heading to the doctor and coming back with yet more medical skin treatment, I then went through several years of trial and error on my skin.

Some new products could instantly flare my skin up, with eczema and an allergic reaction which was like little bubbles under the skin. It was a real case of ‘try and see’, as I didn’t know what was causing the reactions – I dread to think how much I spent on wasted skincare!

I’m 27 now, and it’s only the last couple of years that I feel I’ve finally cracked it. My daily skincare routine includes ONLY Garnier products. This is odd, as I wouldn’t say they’re specifically developed for sensitive skin. Even more odd, when I can’t use E45, Simple or really any brand that shouts about being good for sensitive skin. This isn’t just my face either: my whole body revolted when I covered myself head-to-toe in L’Oreal Gradual Tanner ahead of an event…that was a fun few days!

I’d really like to try some Avène or La Roche-Posay products as I’ve heard they’re amazing. However, I’m put off by the price. What do you think? Worth it? I spend ages scouring Cult Beauty and Beauty Bay looking at trendy, Instagrammable brands such as Mario Badescu and Sunday Riley…but I just don’t think my skin could take it!

My daily products:

A little extra help

I’m quite comfortable with my skin routine at the moment, but sometimes my skin will have a hissy fit if I use the toner, so I try to limit that to a couple of times a week. I’ve noticed a real difference though, in terms of how my anxiety, eating habits and stress affects my skin. This has been due to a conscious effort to LISTEN to my body more. Back in May when I first became freelance, my skin went haywire and the eczema patches under my eyes came back with a vengeance. A historic patch of eczema on my right leg (weirdly?) reared its head again and I felt really low.

My normal skincare routine just didn’t cut it, so I used working from home to my advantage. Not wearing makeup at all, letting my skin breathe and intermittently using specialist eczema and problem skin products.

This included creams that had about 1% hydrocortisone for my face and aqueous cream elsewhere. Boots do a cream that is specifically for around the eye area but I can’t use it as I’m sensitive to Lanolin. I also stopped using foaming / soapy body wash and in an epic throwback to my childhood, used an Oilatum shower gel (oh the memories!).

Side note: do NOT use Sudocrem on your eczema, especially if on your face! Not sure why it’s recommended for that but it stung me and if anything made it worse.

Moving forwards

Luckily, I’m much more settled now and my skin has calmed down a lot. I’m using a brand called Epaderm at the moment to keep things under control. I use the ointment at night on my problem areas or after a heavy makeup day – it’s quite thick and just provides a fantastic barrier for me. I’m not sure if it’s psychological, but I feel like my skin is ‘healing’ with it on. I’ve also added this to a bath – it doesn’t create bubbles but what’s not to like when you’ve got Netflix and a glass of wine on the go? I’m back to using normal shower gel at the moment (can someone say Imperial Leather MARSHMALLOW? Hello!). However, I use the Epaderm skin cleanser in the shower twice a week to ensure my skin doesn’t get above itself and expect sweet treats constantly.

I definitely think that listening to my body and ensuring I’m treating myself kindly is the most important thing. Fingers crossed, everything is on the up at the moment.

How to work from home – because trust me, I know

pink workspace with pen mug notebook and candle

“You’re so lucky you get to work from home!” is a phrase that often leaves people’s mouths when I tell them what I do for a living. Well, yes I am – and I’m absolutely loving my new-found freedom and flexibility, not to mention my new affinity for Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour. I don’t have to drag myself up at an ungodly hour to get to the tube station in the rain, only to find that the Central Line is busted (again!) and I’m going to be late to a V. IMPORTANT. MEETING. I don’t need to fanny around with my makeup, hair and outfit or worry about nasty colleagues or a lacklustre boss.

HOWEVER, it’s not all brilliant. This is my second “go” at working from home, albeit this time I’m working for myself rather than for a company. The first time around, I really didn’t have a nice time. Working from home can make you feel so lonely and out of the loop when you’re not seeing a regular group of clients every day or heading for post-work bevs of a Thursday evening. Although I wasn’t particularly enjoying my role in the company when I worked from home the first time around, I certainly didn’t make the best of my situation. This exacerbated the difficulties within my role and eventually, my mental health was at stake.

Now however, I feel I’ve finally cracked this work from home malarkey. Not only am I working for myself (madness!) in something I love (absolute madness!), I can make my own rules, be flexible and focus on that all-important (and oft-neglected) mental health, should I need to.

Here are a few tips, from me to you, to make your work from home journey a little easier and hopefully, long-lived.

gratitude and happiness planner

Have a to-do list, every day

I write out a to-do list every morning in a notebook. I then create another one in the afternoon and don’t stop until it’s done. Whichever way you choose to create one – whether it’s on a Post-It, your phone, or on the computer – it will add a much-needed structure to your day. Also, do your most important task first. In the past, I’ve got heaps of housework done and even deigned to fix a hem on a pair of trousers I’d not touched in six months to avoid a task. However, I obviously ended up having to do it anyway and worked much later than I needed to. Getting it out of the way early will ensure you are much less likely to stray from your work.

Get out and about

I absolutely love my home and Will and I have worked hard to make it the eclectic, interesting place it is. However, sitting at my desk – sometimes not leaving it all day – can get jarring. Make use of the space around you. During the heatwave, I took my laptop down to Walpole Park and sat in the sun. I’ve written in cosy pubs in the colder months, hipster coffee bars and also on a hill looking out at the Cornish sea. If you’ve got an internet connection, you’re golden. If you prefer working within your four walls though, just taking a “proper” lunch hour and getting out of the house for a walk makes such a difference.

Create a workspace

“Oh wow, you must sit in your pyjamas and work from bed all day!” Well, yeah – kind of. It’s true that my work uniform consists of various underwear items, baggy dungarees and a vast array of Will’s t-shirts – but working from bed is a no-no. I have a clear work-space which is a proper desk set with all my lovely plants and stationery. Sitting there puts me into “work-mode” and makes me productive in a way that sitting in bed just can’t compare to. That’s not to say you should NEVER work from bed if it takes your fancy, but making sure you have a set space will ensure your deadlines are met instead of drifting off for a random 11am snooze after Jeremy Kyle.

working space desk with apple macbook notebook and plants

Top three work from home pros

  • You can work ANYWHERE you like
    See above. World is your oyster, mate.
  • It doesn’t have to be 9-5
    I’m 100% more productive and creative in the afternoon and evenings, so I why on EARTH would I start work at 8am? I often write my best pieces working late into the night.
  • Working in your pants
    Need I say more? ALSO, makeup-free days. My skin LOVES me. Seriously though, you are your best you when you’re comfortable.

Top three work from home cons

  • It’s not always 9-5
    I often find myself working at weekends, which is fine for me if I have a spare hour or so. However, others may require a much stricter work schedule to work to.
  • It can be isolating
    As above, I hated this element the first time round. I’d sometimes find I hadn’t spoken to a single, solitary soul all day. Now, I make sure to get on the blower and annoy the hell out of everyone I know. Also, call clients or any work colleagues if you can. Because you know, sometimes it’s hard to read the tone of an email and take shit to heart. I also take the opportunity to catch up with friends I haven’t seen for years by co-working. It really is what you make it.
  • You need to be totally strict with your diet
    Not doing a mad early-morning march to the tube can make a difference to your waistline. Be honest with yourself if you’re being totally sedentary and get on the treadmill and swap biscuits for celery. I’ve been doing the 5:2 diet for a while, which is easy enough, as Will and I plan all our meals in advance. Somehow, knowing what is coming next saves me from snacking.

pink background googly eyes

How can YOU work from home?

Jack in ya job and go freelance, boi. If you’re not quite at that stage yet, many workplaces offer flexible working patterns. For jobs that only require an internet connection and a laptop, there’s no reason why you can’t work from home. If you think your boss is sound, why not broach it?

Freelance Friends, Office-Population-One Pals and Solo Sidekicks…

I work around London most of the week and am always looking for someone to work alongside in the fabulous spaces we have available. If you want to meet up, contact me at ella.delancey@gmail.com. Obviously, there’s the mandatory five o’ clock Cocktail Hour – but if you can stomach that, we’ll be grand.

SOCIAL MEDIA – the reasons why it’s bad for mental health and confidence

Why did I ditch social media?

social media queen girl in pink taking selfie surrounded by balloons

Why did I ditch social media? Because it was pretty much taking over my life, is the short answer.

Alarm goes off – straight on Instagram, Snapchat and a scroll through Facebook. Light goes out at night – best have one more scroll through social media to be sure I haven’t missed anything.

I’ve had Instagram for a long ass time, and for the most part used it as a kind of picture diary for myself, uploading images of parties, people and travels. Sometimes I’d go back through it to look at seriously fun times. It was fun! It was supposed to be fun.

Something changed along the way though, in that it became more than that to me, and became a numbers game.

I had a phase in the summer in which I tried to ‘theme’ my Instagram, uploading bordered, similarly filtered images, three times a day, with clever hashtags and formatting. It was so boring and limiting, and made absolutely no difference whatsoever to my engagement. If anything, it was worse because the images weren’t ‘real’ any more.

I’m not proud of it, but it got to the point where I was doing research to try and understand Instagram’s algorithms to figure out why my images weren’t doing as well as someone else’s.

And the long and short of it was, and still is – that actually, I really don’t care who looked at the images. I couldn’t give a shit whether Jim Bob from high school has seen my Saturday Night Out post and liked it or not. It wasn’t even about the people – it was about the numbers. And unfortunately, I was the only one in my weird, self-centred race.

The other issue of that was some serious stalking. I think it’s okay to dabble in some light stalking, we all do it to some extent, especially when people leave their lives so open online. However, when you’re 29 weeks into some bird’s photos you don’t even know, it’s time to step away from the smartphone, lady.

Going cold Turkey

Halfway through a bottle of wine, and having just had that heart-stopping moment of accidentally liking someone’s picture I wasn’t even following (maybe they won’t notice, surely they wont notice? Note: THEY’LL FUCKIN’ NOTICE, YOU DOUGHNUT), I deleted all of my social media apps.

Now, I’m clearly back on social media. You may not have even noticed I’d gone. However, the way I’m using it is a lot different now.

It was really hard, though. The next morning, I’d forgotten I’d done it and went to look at Instagram. Cold reality settling, I did something else. In fact, I ‘did something else’ a lot, whenever I found myself unlocking my phone for no other reason than to scroll through someone else’s life or post some picture for likes. I read the news, read a book, I wrote for my blog, I researched things for my new job, for travelling, for my health. I went for a ‘walk’ spontaneously for the first time in my life.

Switching off

The first couple of days were tough, and what shocked me was the amount of times I’d have that urge to open an app. Any spare second and I’d go to open one. Over the course of the next couple of weeks though, I found myself thinking less and less of social media. I even watched an entire film through with Will, without having a sly scroll.

However, I need social media, for my job, blog and general knowledge. I decided to reinstall and set myself limits. Ten minutes max, twice a day – no stalking whatsoever. To aid this, I did a massive unfollow / unfriend cull.

It has worked! Instead of scrolling endlessly, I usually have a purpose and I am much more able to switch off.

So for now, I’m back on social media. Still liking, still scrolling – but on a much smaller scale. And the numbers? Yeah, I might still post a selfie if I’m particularly feeling myself that day, but I realise that what’s important is whether I like the picture, not anyone else. I also know that some people think I’m beautiful and awesome no matter what – and that’s what I care about.

Interested in my thoughts? Read this open letter to bitchy high school teacher.